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Friday, March 07, 2008

This M.D.'s for the girls

LEFT: Drs. Joelle Wennlund (left) and Aparna Pai work together at Healthcare for Women in New Lenox, providing most of the medical care a woman needs. Two other doctors are on staff for other woman-oriented services.

NEW LENOX -- When Dr. Joelle Wennlund named her new medical practice Healthcare for Women, she meant it.

The new office suite at 1938 E. Lincoln Highway offers women one-stop shopping for most of their medical needs. Patients are offered everything from blood pressure treatment and laser hair removal to breast surgery and Botox.

For the past decade or so, Wennlund has been in private practice as a gynecologist. She's noticed a trend of women patients wanting women doctors. At one time, Wennlund would refer her patients to other doctors, but there was no guarantee they would follow through.

That's why she has partnered with fellow female physician Dr. Aparna Pai, an internal medicine doctor, who can handle medical issues Wennlund can't.

"We realized nobody else had that kind of service in the area," Pai said. "It's for the women, by the women."

The percent of doctors who are women in the United States has almost quadrupled from 7.6 percent in 1970 to 27.8 percent in 2006. The actual number of women doctors has increased from 25,401 to 256,257 during the same time period, according to the American Medical Association. The change makes female-dominated medical practices more possible.

And Wennlund and Pai appear to be tapping into a trend geared toward treating women patients from head to toe. For instance, the University of Nebraska Medical Center opened the Olson Center for Women's Health in October.

The facility groups physicians, mostly women, who are able to treat all of a woman's medical needs, under one tastefully decorated roof. The center even has a massage therapist in the waiting room and valet parking. And the center uses pagers so patients' names aren't called out loud.

"It eliminates a lot of the unnecessary noise," said Sheila McFarland, the center's manager.

Scales are inside exam rooms. "No woman wants to stand in the hallway and be weighed," McFarland said.

So far, the center has been a hit.

"We're tickled," McFarland said. "And I know this is the trend."

Wennlund and Pai, too, feel they've come up with a winning combination for New Lenox, though their practice is smaller than the one in Omaha, Neb.

In addition to primary medical care, Wennlund and Pai brought Dr. Paula Lapinski, a dermatologist, and Dr. Jose Rios, a plastic surgeon into the office.

Rios can do breast reduction or augmentation surgeries and reconstructive surgery after mastectomies, Wennlund said. And Lapinski's sub-specialty is in skin cancers and lesions. She also does Botox and dermal fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm.

The office can handle weight and cardiovascular issues as well as prevention programs.

"Heart disease is still what kills the majority of women," Wennlund said.

But sometimes less serious issues are really bothering women, and they tend to talk about them during their annual gynecological exams, Wennlund said. "It's a more comfortable place to do it."

Now Wennlund can refer those women to Lapinski for laser hair removal or spider vein reduction.

In her previous New Lenox office, Wennlund shared a waiting room with other physicians. That meant her female clients had to rub elbows with male patients. By setting up her own office suite, Wennlund has eliminated that issue, too. Men can still visit her practice for hair removal or other dermatology procedures.

"But we set it up at a time when our waiting room is not packed with women," Wennlund said.

The practice also has evening hours Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturday morning hours, which helps female clientele.

"It's more convenient for mothers home with their kids or working people who find it hard to take off during the week," Wennlund said.

Healthcare for Women opened in January, and Wennlund said she's been surprised by the number of women driving by who see her name on the sign and make an appointment because they're long overdue for an exam.

In the past, Wennlund said she sometimes was the only doctor a woman saw during the year.

"I'd get pressure from patients who wanted me to be able to treat everything," she said. "And I was always referring patients out. Or they would be scrambling (to find another doctor) when they did come down with some kind of illness."

But those days are over and Wennlund said she feels she can help women overcome just about any of their health concerns now.

"Hopefully, they'll be comfortable in one place."

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